Woe to the rich! (Lk 6:24-6:24)

“But woe to you

Who are rich!

You have received

Your consolation.”

 

Πλὴν οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς πλουσίοις, ὅτι ἀπέχετε τὴν παράκλησιν ὑμῶν.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said the rich people should be cursed (Πλὴν οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς πλουσίοις), using the second person plural.  They already had received their consolation, comfort, or happiness (ὅτι ἀπέχετε τὴν παράκλησιν ὑμῶν).  While Matthew had 8 beatitudes about the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the righteous, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted, Luke only had 4.  The blessed or fortunate ones here were the poor, the hungry, the weeping, and the. persecuted.  3 of the 4 of these categories are almost the same, but the hungry could only go with those who hunger for righteousness.  Some later 4th century Christian writers, like Ambrose of Milan (337-397), have said that theses 4 beatitudes correspond to the 4 cardinal virtues of temperance, justice, prudence, and fortitude.  However, Luke uniquely has these 4 more woes or curses in which he denounced or called out their bad behavior.  In this particular case, he challenged or criticized the rich people because they already had their consolation.

Advertisements

The prayer of Elizabeth (Lk 1:25-1:25)

“Elizabeth said.

‘This is what

The Lord

Has done to me.

He looked on me.

He took away

The disgrace

That I have endured

Among my people.’”

 

λέγουσα

ὅτι Οὕτως μοι πεποίηκεν Κύριος ἐν ἡμέραις αἷς ἐπεῖδεν ἀφελεῖν ὄνειδός μου ἐν ἀνθρώποις.

 

Luke has this prayer of Elizabeth.  She said that the Lord had done this to her (ὅτι Οὕτως μοι πεποίηκεν Κύριος).  Many believed that only God could help people get pregnant, since he controlled the opening and closing of the womb, as indicated in Genesis, chapter 16:2, about Sarah and being barren.  That was the reason that there were so many pagan fertility gods, rites, and rituals, since giving birth was considered to be some kind of magical or divine action.  Also, contemporary political gesturing around reproductive rights has its basis in religious beliefs.  Elizabeth said that in those days (ἐν ἡμέραις), the Lord had looked on her (αἷς ἐπεῖδεν), since he took away her disgrace or reproach (ἀφελεῖν ὄνειδός) that she had endured among her people or other men (ἐν ἀνθρώποις).  Being barren or sterile was considered a punishment from God.  The prime example of a happiness at birth would have been in Genesis, chapter 29:31-30:23, where Rachel finally had a son, Joseph.  Elizabeth understood her pregnancy as a personal vindication or reward for her righteousness.  She did not seem to understand the wider consequences of her pregnancy.

 

The terrible punishment (Am 6:12-6:14)

“Do horses run

On rocks?

Does one plow the sea

With oxen?

But you have turned

Justice

Into poison.

You have turned

The fruit of righteousness

Into wormwood.

You who rejoice

In Lo-debar!

You who say,

‘Have we not

By our own strength

Taken Karnaim

For ourselves?’

Indeed,

I am raising up

Against you

A nation.

O house of Israel!’

Says Yahweh!

The God of hosts!

They shall oppress you

From Lebo-Hamath

To the Wadi Arabah.”

Amos asked whether horses could run on rocks? Do you send oxen to plow the sea? While this may seem stupid, it is not sillier than turning justice into poison or the sweetness of righteousness into the bitterness of wormwood, which the Israelites had done. While the Israelite King Jeroboam II (783-743 BCE) had captured Lo-debar and Karnaim on the west side of the Jordan, that happiness would come to an end. They thought that they had done it by themselves. Now Yahweh, the God of heavenly armies, was going to send the Assyrians to wipe out the northern kingdom of the house of Israel, from its northern border in Syria at Lebo-Hamath to the southern border of the Wadi Arabah. Yahweh, the God of heavenly hosts, would put an end to the northern kingdom of Israel.

The joy is gone (Lam 5:15-5:16)

“The joy

Of our hearts

Has ceased.

Our dancing

Has been turned

To mourning.

The crown

Has fallen

From our head.

Cursed be us!

We have sinned!”

Happiness has left the people of Jerusalem. The joy of their hearts is now gone. They have stopped dancing. They now turn to mourning. The crown of Jerusalem has fallen. They are now cursed because they were sinners.

Rich and poor (Prov 13:7-13:11)

“Some pretend to be rich.

Yet they have nothing.

Others pretend to be poor,

Yet they have great wealth.

Wealth is a ransom for a person’s life.

But the poor get no threats.

The light of the righteous rejoices.

But the lamp of the wicked goes out.

By insolence

The heedless make strife.

But wisdom is

With those who take advice.

Wealth hastily gotten

Will dwindle.

But those who gather little by little

Will increase it.”

Once again there is a comparison between the rich and the poor. The rich are the righteous, while the poor are the foolish. Some people pretend to be rich when they do not have anything. Others pretend to be poor when they are rich. Those who lead a good life will get riches, while the poor will not get anything. The light of the righteous or a good life will bring them happiness. The wicked will see their light go out because of their insolence and heedless strife or arguing. The wise ones take advice. If you get wealthy too quickly your wealth will dwindle. However, if you gain wealth slowly, a little at a time, your wealth will increase.

Grateful and happy (Ps 4:6-4:7)

“There are many who say.

‘O that we might see some good!

Lift up the light of your face!

Shine on us!

O Yahweh!’

You have put more joy and gladness in my heart.

It is more than when grain and wine abound.”

There is a strange expression about the bright face of Yahweh that lights up everything that is often repeated. They wanted to see some goodness or good things happen. Somehow the light from the face of Yahweh would shine on them in order to bring them happiness. This joy and happiness would then fill up their souls or hearts. This joy was greater than wonderful grain harvests and abundant wine supplies.

The happy people (Ps 1:1-1:3)

“Happy are those

Who do not follow the advice of the wicked.

They do not take the path that sinners tread.

They do not sit in the seat of scoffers.

Their delight is in the law of Yahweh.

On his law they meditate day and night.

They are like trees

That are planted by streams of water.

They yield their fruit in its season.

Their leaves do not wither.

In all that they do,

They prosper.”

Psalm 1 is considered a preface to the collection of psalms or praises. There is no attribution to this psalm. It may have been the biblical editor’s choice. This psalm emphasizes the two ways, much like the later 1st century CE Christian Didache. This is, in fact, a wisdom psalm. The happy or blessed ones are the people who do not follow wicked advice. They receive blessings. They are the prosperous or the righteous people. They do not walk down the way of sinners or scoffers. Their delight and happiness is in the law of Yahweh. They are like the strong trees planted by streams of water as they always yield their fruit in the correct season. Their leaves never wither. Everything that they do is prosperous because they are sustained by the water. They meditate day and night on the Torah that was given by Yahweh, the God of Israel, via Moses. They are much like Christian contemplatives or Buddhist monks. The happy blessed one is the one who follows the law. This psalm sets the tone for all the psalms to follow.